The world is flooded with drinkable wine. While that’s great for consumers, it poses challenges to some of the counties on the fringes of wine recognition — such as Georgia, which may have the longest winemaking tradition in the world.
The fall of the Iron Curtain, the liberalization and integration of the global economy, and improved knowledge of winemaking and grape-growing has allowed many wine regions to become players. Today, you can’t write off any place in the world that can grow wine grapes. The potential to make wine is no longer limited to a handful of nations.
The Pennsylvania expanded-selection “specialty stores” like those in Clarks Summit and Dallas have a shelf for “others,” offering a great place to explore.
A country such as Georgia, although it may have the longest winemaking tradition, gets little mainstream attention. There, the act of winemaking is part of religious celebrations. Even the letters of the Georgian language are based on shapes made by grape vines and tendrils.
Georgia markets itself as “the birthplace of wine.” To get attention on crowded shelves, it needs something like the packaging for Artevani Kindzmarauli 2018, a red semi-sweet wine that looks like something Harry Potter picked up at Diagon Alley or something folks in the Shire would drink from. I’m guessing it is a ceramic bottle, with a handle design to look like wood, and a vessel containing two bronzish etchings depicting ancient Georgian winemaking. The bottle is cork-topped and wax-dipped for an added touch. It just looks cool and invites fun and historical anachronisms. The producer has a line of these bottles.
The wine is made from the versatile grape saperavi. Fans of specialty wines in Pennsylvania and New York may recognize the variety, which is in limited production by local wineries. Artevani’s wine — once it leaves the bottle — is purplish and pleasant, a drinkable sweet red with wild berry and spice. Sweet wine lovers will enjoy it, and it will pair well with chocolate. $23. ♦♦♦ 1/2
Sun Wine Tsinandali Dry White Wine 2018 Georgia is made from Georgia’s leading white grape, rkatsiteli. Like saperavi, rkatsiteli is another cold, hardy grape that found some traction in the eastern wine business. Here, though, it is an average, rather anonymous white wine in need of some acid and zip. $14. ♦♦♦
Where are the great wines from places like Georgia? In the United States, it’s important to realize the challenge of getting the best wines from marginal wine-producing countries such as Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia and a host of others on your local store shelves. For one, these producers prefer to sell closer to home where transportation is easier and margins higher. Why reach to sell your product on the other side of the world when you can sell your entire production close to home? This is true for small producers everywhere, and even large producers in places such as New Zealand.
Some will say that you just have to go to these places. In the meantime, hit the “others” shelf at the wine store.
GRADE: Exceptional ♦♦♦♦♦, Above average ♦♦♦♦, Good ♦♦♦, Below average ♦♦, Poor ♦